With a pension crisis looming, a gaping budget hole, a crumbling infrastructure and scores of other needs that must be met and paid for, every cent of the tax dollars we send to Harrisburg is being used urgently to meet current expenses....
We all have regrets, and surely it’s part and parcel of the human condition to have those moments where you wish you had easy access to a time machine and you could head back into the past and fix something that turned out, with plenty of hindsight, to be not such a good idea.
Many taxpayers and school administrators in Pennsylvania – and no doubt some lawmakers, too – would aim that time machine straight back to 2000. It was at that juncture, following almost a decade of uninterrupted economic growth and robust employment, that the Legislature decided to increase substantially the pension benefits for state employees and public school teachers in the commonwealth. After such an extended period of expansion, fueled by new technology and increased productivity, it looked like the blue skies would continue to stretch on and on as far as the eye could see.
But the storm clouds appeared soon enough. The tech bubble burst, the 9/11 attacks happened and the economy experienced a brief recession.
That was only a foretaste of the devastation that loomed in 2007 and 2008, however, when the housing bubble exploded with the force of a nuclear weapon and laid the economy to waste. Seven years later, we are just now starting to fully recover.
Sure, a decade-and-a-half ago, when the teacher retirement system was funded at a plump 123 percent, increasing benefits retroactively without a corresponding employee contribution and lowering the vesting threshold might have seemed like an excellent idea – it would attract talented employees and, no doubt, allow legislators to reap benefits at election time from grateful recipients of the largesse.
Now, it has precipitated a crisis for the pension system in Pennsylvania. And solutions are bound to be painful.
The impact it has had on school districts in Washington and Greene counties was outlined comprehensively in the Sunday edition of this newspaper.
Reporter Francesca Sacco talked with administrators and school board members who are faced with having to cut programs and increase taxes in order to keep feeding the pension maw.
Classes and whole academic areas are having to be sliced, in such areas as home economics, industrial arts, art and music, foreclosing opportunities and limiting the vistas of our students.
The purchase of new technology that would help prepare students for the job market they will eventually be entering is being put off, along with the purchase of new textbooks and supplies. At the same time, school boards are raising millage rates to keep up with pension obligations.
Hidden Treasures has had a presence in Waynesburg for quite a while, and we are hoping the thrift store will continue to be part of the Greene County community.
But last Thursday, the store, which has been at Widewaters Commons in Morrisville since October 2010, closed because its lease expired.
Hidden Treasures, an outreach of Washington City Mission, provides reasonably priced used furniture, clothing, household necessities, children’s toys, books and many other items, some donated new from local businesses.
It is a vital asset to the community, and to lose Hidden Treasures because of lease issues would be a tragedy. The people in this community really have no other place locally to get good used furniture when they need to move or replace what might be lost in a fire. What Hidden Treasures offers to the residents of the county is immeasurable.
We have no idea what Hidden Treasures was paying for rent at Widewaters, and we were surprised to learn it was on a month-to-month lease. We don’t know if Hidden Treasures was solely responsible for paying its rent or whether it was subsidized in some way by the City Mission.
Prior to locating at this plaza, Hidden Treasures was operating a store on High Street in Waynesburg, and because of what the store offered, it is likely they ran out of space. When it moved nearly five years ago, there was excitement among its workers and volunteers that this was the perfect location because of convenient parking and because of the likelihood of increased customer traffic.
A Waynesburg University student who was doing his service learning project at Hidden Treasures was as shocked as anyone when he learned the store was closing. “Everyone has a good attitude. It’s been fun,” said Zach Diberadin. “Even though they’re being forced out, they still hope to stay in the community.”
And no one hopes that more than store manager Kathy Suska.
She has put out a petition for customers to comment on possible new locations and so far she has received 300 signatures of support. “They really want us to stay,” she said.
We are not surprised that customers appreciated the variety of goods that were within their budgets to buy.
Every year, we see stories about high school football and basketball coaches who get in trouble because their teams run up exorbitant scores against overmatched opponents, but we don’t recall hearing about a coach getting in trouble for trying not to score, until now....
Since at least 1983, when the federal report “A Nation at Risk” painted a picture of failing public schools churning out undereducated and unprepared graduates, lawmakers and educational reformers have been endlessly toying with curriculum changes and testing regimes in the hope......